Car reviews - Ford - Focus - range
Cabin and dash improvements, performance, economy, value, refinement, features upgrade, sharp dynamics, supple ride on all but Titanium, paddle shifter options
Room for improvement
Titanium’s ride is too hard, steering a tad too light for trad Focus fans, 1.5L turbo isn’t that smooth, lack of diesel, anonymous Ford nose, higher base prices, driver-aid tech only available on Titanium annoying thumb-operated shift
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2 Sep 2015
IF THIS Focus doesn’t reverse the small car’s sales fortunes in Australia, nothing will.
Ford says it has been listening intently to criticism and feedback to create what is said to be the best and most relevant iteration sold in the series’ 13-year history in this country.
And, by and large, the final result should be enough to lead more than a few Volkswagen Golf and Mazda3 followers back into the Blue Oval fold.
Whatever you make of Ford’s current design language, it at least gives people a reason to take another look at what the European designed and Thai-built C-segment sedan and hatch have to offer.
They ought to be much more impressed with the mods inside, with what is undoubtedly the best Focus dash ever in terms of design, layout, functionality and quality. While it may lack the simple yet classless grace of, say, the latest Peugeot 308’s lovely interior, it won’t overwhelm onlookers with the phalanx of press buttons like the previous version did.
Top marks go to the all-new and attractive touchscreen interface, instrument cluster (with – at long last – a digital speedo), and ergonomic feel the seats do a great job supporting a range of buttock shapes and sizes there is ample room to spread out and the standard reversing camera helps address the thick pillar blind spots somewhat.
On the other hand, the base Trend’s plastic steering wheel is a disappointment in the tactility department and a pair of face or body-level rear airvents also wouldn’t go astray if you’re after the Golf’s desirability mantle, Ford.
Volkswagen, however, ought to be concerned about the changes that have occurred underneath, with all but the hard-riding (on Goodyear Eagle F1 235/40R18 tyres) Titanium putting up an impressive show of progress.
For starters, the 1.5L four-pot turbo EcoBoost is way more responsive than the 1.6 and 2.0-litre atmo units it replaces it leaps forward with intent, and pulls strongly as the tacho moves towards the red line, for strong and spirited performance. However, the Teflon smoothness of other similar downsized turbo applications (such as Volkswagen’s and Peugeot’s) isn’t quite there yet.
No manuals were available for us to drive at launch, but the six-speed auto makes a fair go of the available torque, offering fast and slick changes the standard thumb-operated sequential shift mechanism is useless, though. Go for the (optional) paddle shifters instead.
And then there is the LZ Focus’ steering.
Admittedly, we prefer the weightiness of the previous set-up, but apparently, the people out there who actually buy new cars wanted a lighter feel. So what Ford has done is clever: at lower speeds the steering is light yet provides enough feedback to keep drivers like us connected, and then the helm graduates to a pleasingly linear yet not-too-heavy level of assistance as the pace picks up, with just the right level of feel and feedback as required. Long sweeping curves best show off the dynamic changes in their best light. We reckon the compromise Ford has reached might be right up there with class best (Golf and 308).
The ride and refinement levels, too, are palpably better than before in most variants, with a respective suppleness and quietness that really puts the Focus at the fore of the class at the price point it operates within. Ford clearly has not lost any of its damping prowess.
However, the exception is the Titanium, which suffers from an unduly loud and punishing suspension tune on anything but the smoothest of roads that we sampled the Focus on.
That’s a shame, because the new LZ series is proof that Ford is determined to claw back customers. It has the style, features, value, technology, performance, economy, and practicality to take on the best in class.
We just hope buyers out there will still give the Blue Oval a chance to find out for themselves how competitive the Focus has become again.
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